Many Zimbabweans in the eastern border city of Mutare, Manicaland province, say they are struggling to send children to school due to lack of money.
Most schools are demanding cash upfront before enrolling children for the 2016 schools’ first term.
While it looked like business as usual in this city on the last day before schools open, dejection was evidently written on most parents’ faces.
Most of them were doing window shopping but complained of high prices of uniforms for both primary and secondary schools. On average, a primary school uniform for girls costs about $25, and a boys’ uniform is pegged at $20. School shoes are about $15.
School fees at government primary schools are about $180 for starters and returnees pay about $80 a term.
Government and church-run secondary schools charge about $90 a term for day scholars, and boarders pay an average of $450 a term.
One of the parents, Maxwell Matiyashe, said they are failing to raise money to buy uniforms and pay school fees for their children.
“We are not coping as it is difficult to survive due to lack of money. Some companies are not paying much for the services rendered. Even the government is not paying and so we appeal to the government to allow parents to make an arrangement of paying later so that children are not sent home to look for fees,” said Matiyashe.
Alice Bhasikiti, who ekes out a living through selling carrier bags at local departmental stores in the city, said it is hard to look for money, especially when state workers are not being properly paid by the government.
Bkhasikiti said, “Our business is so hard … there is nothing, there is no money for us as our regular customers have not been paid as expected. We don’t have money to pay fees for our children and their uniforms.”
Another local woman, Marvelous Munyeruki, who is a street vendor, said she can only send her children to school if she gets a decent job.
“Selling these plastic bags is not one of the best jobs to do for me. I want a much better way of earning a living that guarantees me a better lifestyle and be able to fend for my children and send them to school.”
A government employee, who identified himself as Abel Charuma, said he will be able to send his children to school if he gets his delayed 2015 bonus.
“Now we don’t know how the children will go to school because we did not get the bonuses as promised and our children are going to school on Tuesday. We can’t get money to pay their school fees and buy uniforms,” said Charuma.
A headmaster at a local secondary school told Studio 7 that while the government has directed that no child should be sent away from school for non-payment of school fees, most school authorities will not follow the order.
The headmaster said it would be improper for those that have not paid fees to enjoy the same education rights with children that have paid their fees; be it in part or in full.